Vietnam has made great strides in expanding social health insurance coverage, now covering more than half of its population, the World Bank said in its report launched in Hanoi on September 17.

“Vietnam has made significant progress toward achieving universal coverage for its population, and the government has made ambitious plans toward reaching that goal.” said Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank Country Director for Vietnam.

“This study shows us how Vietnam can speed up this process in order to ensure a healthy Vietnamese population while reducing the health financial burden on the poor,” she added.

The report “Moving toward universal Health coverage of Social health insurance in Vietnam: Assessment and Options” offers a comprehensive assessment of Vietnam’s implementation of its social health insurance programme, as well as recommendations on key reforms to achieve universal coverage.

According to the report, thanks to higher government spending in health care services, the insurance programme, which was piloted in 1989, has greatly boosted the number of people with health insurance. In 2010, 60 percent of the population got covered, up from 10 percent in the early 1990s.

The report proposed reforms in several areas, including further increasing insurance coverage through premium subsidies, encouraging family enrollment and enforcing enrollment compliance, and improving equity and financial protection by cutting down on extra charges outside of policy and introducing catastrophic cost coverage.

It also suggests s trengthening health financing arrangements by ensuring money is spent more effectively and efficiently on drugs, and increasing accountability by intensifying the organisation, management and governance of social health insurance.-VNA